Short history of American Dolls
American Girl dolls have quite a long history.
Created in 1986 by Pleasant Company, this was a line of doll products which were approximately 18 inches or 46 centimeters long. These dolls were created in various ethnicities; no matter what you were looking for, you could find it with this product line. All of them were between 8 and 11 years old.
An interesting thing about these items is that they were sold with books which made them different from any other doll manufacturer at that time. True to its name, these books had stories from American folklore created from a standpoint of little girls. This gave them much more authenticity. In 1995, the number of stories increased including some modern tales as well.
Another thing that differentiated Pleasant Company is the fact that during the early days, people could only order American dolls via mail. Still, its success was impressive and other companies started to take notice of Pleasant Company’s work. Some of their ideas are still being used to this day in the doll industry.
Ultimately, in 1998, Pleasant Company became a subsidiary of Mattel.
"Truly Me" dolls
Gift books weren’t the only thing innovative about American dolls.
Customers also had the option of ordering realistic dolls. These products were called "Truly Me" line. There were various features that a buyer could modify ranging from eye color and shape, hair texture and length as well as skin color.
Besides the body, consumers were also able to choose their own set of accessories. There was a wide variety of additional products that were sold together with these dolls giving people so many choices. While this wasn’t revolutionary and similar reborn babies existed at this time, it gave us a glimpse of things in future where every buyer could create an item according to own specifications and desires.
As previously mentioned, the company was founded in 1986. It was a brainchild of Pleasant Rowland. He took inspiration from Historical Characters line created by Götz company from West Germany. Mister Rowland decided to create his own six-book series that would teach children about American history.
Of course, all these books were meant for little girls which were the main users of American Girl dolls. But, the biggest problem with these books was the fact they were meant to cover some important topics like poverty, racism, slavery, war, child labor and abuse etc. As such, it was really hard to create meaningful content that smaller kids can understand. This is why the company tried to write in a girl's voice.
Pleasant Company never stopped innovating. In 1995 they created a new series of dolls named American Girl of Today. These toys were meant to go with the time and follow the latest fashion. The line had several name changes starting with Just Like You, to My American Girl and finally, it was called Truly Me.
The line was one of the most innovative doll product lines in the history. Over the years, it included 77 different models. Given that people could choose their own features, it gave them lots of space for experimenting. Various combinations of skin, eye and hair color, face mold, fashion styles were used to create them. According to the company, these dolls were the best representation of the diversity of modern girls.
Besides body features, you could also incorporate various outfits, accessories and even furniture. But the company didn’t stop there. Each year they would create a doll that has special features and special talents. So, for certain years, the main American doll would be an ice skater, the next year a scientist and so on.
American dolls are pretty amazing by themselves. American Girl product line is the best representation of American culture and ingenuity showing us how people lived in this part of the world during an extended period of time.
The older models are popular memorabilia and can be found on various auctions.